Posted: Jul 27, 2012 6:15 PM
Updated: Jul 27, 2012 7:04 PM
WESLACO - Investigators say Mexican cartels are stealing millions of dollars in equipment from oil companies along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Officials said the equipment is behind used to steal fuel from Mexico's state-owned oil company Pemex.
"The cartels (are) buying, or trading narcotics for stolen oil field equipment so they could put taps on Pemex's pipelines," said Midland County Chief Sheriff Deputy Ed Krevit.
Many of the thefts are happening at oil fields in the Permian Basin.
"There's more oil field theft in this area than any place I've ever worked," said Dustin Brown, with Savanna Drilling.
Krevit estimates that Pemex may be losing up to $350 million a year from illegal taps on their pipelines.
He said cartels often truck the oil back to the U.S. where they sell it to oil brokers.
"Some of the cartels have been shouldered out of their traditional smuggling paths, so they've had to turn to other ways of generating revenue," Krevit said.
The cartels use the money to buy weapons and ammunition, he said.
"If they are doing it in West Texas, they're doing it in South Texas," said Phil Jordan, former DEA supervisor.
Jordan said there is intelligence that cartels are stealing equipment in South Texas.
More than a dozen companies drilled more some 3,000 wells in South Texas last year.
"If I'm losing equipment, losing parts, losing pieces, it's passed on to the operator and the operator has to pass it on to the consumer," Brown said.
Task force investigators said they are trying to stop the cartels in their tracks. They will start training law enforcement to spot oil field thefts.